The Waterfront is a peculiar place for local Capetonians to hang out. Sometimes, it’s necessary (they have the only Zara in the southern part of South Africa), but mostly it’s an unnecessary competitive game of dodging tourists in passages and pricey restaurants. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that going for dinner at Africa’s top tourist destination is not on my must-do list.
But along came Mondiall, and with it, just the right blend of setting, service, food and fashionableness to make me amend my aforementioned to-do list.
Mondiall is a joint venture between Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef Peter Tempelhoff (executive chef of The Collection by Liz McGrath, whose restaurants include The Greenhouse and The Conservatory at Cellars-Hohenort; Pavillion and Seafood at The Marine; and Seafood at The Plettenberg) and restaurateur Patrick Symington of Cape Town’s erstwhile Café Dharma and Asoka fame. It’s a match made in heaven, in a setting that’s just as heavenly: the spot where the Green Dolphin used to be, next to the Victoria & Alfred Hotel, overlooking Table Mountain.
This is not The Greenhouse (number four in our current Top 10), so don’t expect over-the-top fine dining. Instead, the menu features timeless classics, interpreted in a contemporary fashion. Simple food is made with exceptional ingredients, presented in a beautiful but understated fashion. Each dish references its year and country of origin. It’s a jumble of mostly French, American and Italian dishes, with the odd English, Mexican, Japanese and South African contribution.
The result is a food offering that caters for a wide variety of tastes and appetites. Lighter options include things like spicy and sticky Buffalo wings (circa 1964, from Buffalo, New York) served with a delicious ranch dressing; seafood ceviche (circa 13AD, Lima, Peru); and a magnificent Caesar salad with lemony white anchovies, smoked pancetta and a soft-boiled and crumbed free-range egg. Interestingly enough, said salad originated in Tijuana, Mexico around 1924 – and not anywhere near the Roman empire.
Meatier options are just that – quite meaty. From a classic cheeseburger and fries (and a dollop of delectable umami ketchup) and a grilled sirloin café de Paris (from Switzerland!) to a fragrant Cape Malay lamb curry. Seafood is also plentiful: West Coast oysters, grilled lobster Hollandaise (circa 1593, Netherlands), fish tacos (circa 1650, Mexico City, Mexico) and, of course, good old fish and chips (thank you, England).
Desserts cover a host of classics – pecan pie, baked cheesecake, malva pudding and more – but it is the Mondiall chocolate sundae that takes the, uhm, cake. Originating in Wisconsin, USA, around 1881, its huge glass is filled to the brim with sweets and treats: berries, caramel, mint, chocolate, nuts and cream.
The selection of drinks is as thought-through as the food. The wine list includes a variety of local and international wines, across a good variety of cultivars. There’s also an impressive martini menu as well as a few classic (and beautiful) cocktails.
It’s a new restaurant, so they’re clearly still ironing out a few issues. Nothing serious, though. Everyone is friendly, willing and fairly knowledgeable about the food. If only they wouldn’t start flapping when you ask for salt for the table…
Boasting what is arguably the best view of Table Mountain at the waterfront, Mondiall really didn’t have to pull out many stops when it came to the décor. But they did. It’s an open, modern space with a nod to an old-school European brasserie. It’s undeniably elegant, but far from pretentious. A table of gaggling new mothers (minus prams, but plus flip-flops and a mountain of shopping bags) didn’t nearly look out of place.